The NTSB released its preliminary report on the Pine Mountain Lake crash.  As usual, the preliminary report contains no conclusions concerning the cause of the crash. For that, we’ll have to wait up to 4 years.  The preliminary report does, however, hint that the NTSB’s investigation will focus on whether the pilot pressed on into weather beyond what the regulations allowed.

The full text of the report is here.  Some excerpts:

Instrument night meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site, and no flight plan had been filed.

Instrument weather conditions are those that require a pilot to fly by reference to his instruments rather than by looking out the window. To fly in instrument conditions, a pilot must be instrument-rated, his plane must be properly equipped, and he must have a clearance from air traffic control.  He is not necessarily required to file a flight plan.  For example, instead of filing a flight plan, theContinue Reading NTSB Preliminary Report on Saratoga Crash at Pine Mountain Lake in Groveland, California

The runway at Pine Mountain Lake is oriented east-west, and is surrounded by rugged terrain.  In poor weather, pilots are permitted to execute instrument approaches to the airport.  The approach procedures guide pilots as they descend through the clouds to the runway.  The procedures, flown properly, will place the pilot in a position to land straight ahead without having to maneuver.  When the pilot pops out of the clouds after flying the instrument approach to Pine Mountain Lake, his view out of the windshield should be something like this:  

 Final Approach Runway 27 Pine Mountain Lake - Photo by austinpilot  

The procedure the pilot must follow when approaching from the east is set forth below.  A pilot may descend in the clouds no lower than 770 feet above the runway.  To descend further, the pilot mustContinue Reading Piper Saratoga Crash at Pine Mountain Lake Airport in Groveland, California